Gregg Smith, a political neophyte and Democratic candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, dropped out of the race Monday, saying Democrats need to avoid a protracted primary if they are to defeat GOP U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert.
“Given the quality and experience of the field, I have concluded that as a newcomer to the Democratic Party, my chances of winning the primary are remote,” the rancher and military veteran from Westcliffe said in a statement.
Smith’s unusually early entry into the race — Jan. 30, four weeks after Boebert took office — surprised political onlookers in Colorado. So, too, did a viral tweet to kick off his campaign that was shared by Hollywood celebrities and garnered him hundreds of thousands of followers.
But since then, six other Democratic candidates have announced they are running, including state Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail, the best-known candidate in the race.
“Thank you, Gregg Smith, for your service to our nation and for lending your voice in the fight to flip the 3rd Congressional District,” Donovan said in a statement, adding that it will take Democrats “banding together” to beat Boebert.
In a press release announcing his departure from the race, Smith said he could “garner attention as a candidate” but his “continued presence will distract from a unified effort to defeat Lauren Boebert.” He urged Democrats to avoid “a drawn-out primary battle.”
Boebert, from Silt, is an attention-grabbing conservative who is known nationwide for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election, refusing to comply with metal detectors in the U.S. Capitol and making a series of incendiary remarks. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
“The longer it takes the Democrats to choose their candidate, the longer there will be fighting within the Democratic Party,” said Justin Gollob, a professor of political science at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
“This infighting can benefit the Republicans, and the inability to find a consensus candidate quickly can hurt the Democrats,” Gollob added. “However, considering we are only a few short months into the 117th Congress, and there is a lot of runway left in the 2022 election, finding a consensus candidate quickly is easier said than done.”
Also Monday, the liberal group ProgressNow Colorado released a poll conducted in early March that showed Boebert leading a generic Democratic candidate by a narrow margin, 46% to 44%. The poll of 500 voters has a margin of error of 4% and was conducted within the current 3rd District, though district lines are likely to shift after redistricting later this year.
Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who conducted the survey, said Boebert is “potentially vulnerable to a strong challenger” despite western and southern Colorado’s conservative tilt.
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